With the 4th of July weekend here, it’s time to honor the greatest American player in Flyers history: John LeClair.
He had a 100mph slapshot, and was strong as an ox. When LeClair parked himself in front of the net, nobody could move him. The area right in front of a goalies face belonged to him, and nobody could do a thing about it. He was the first American player to have three straight 50 goal seasons. And he did his damage during the dead puck era. He managed to stand fearlessly in front of the net at a time when anyone could take a hack without fear of getting penalized.
He came into the league without a ton of expectations. In Montreal, he had .53 ppg, but was a playoff hero en route to their Stanley Cup in 1993. Still, the Canadiens didn’t know what they really had when they shipped him off as a side package in the Desjardins-Recchi trade. After that change of scenery, he really took off. Joining forces with Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg, the three players formed the Legion of Doom. They would cycle, they would hit, and they would score almost at will. LeClair, as the second best player on the line, put up .99 ppg. And that number could have been higher if he hadn’t tailed off near the end of his career due to serious back injuries. With the Flyers, he was an all-star 5 straight years from 1996-2000.
He had some success in the international level as well, especially in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. He was second in tournament scoring, with 10 points (6G 4A). More importantly, he was part of a team that brought home the gold, after some stunning upsets over Team Canada. They weren’t as talented, and certainly weren’t favorites. But they proved to be tougher and better, and came home victorious.
Happy Independence Day to John LeClair and everyone else.
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